When I started this movie, I was mentally chanting, “Please don’t suck, please don’t suck!” And while it did not suck, it certainly did not blow either. …That may have come out wrong.
Wicked Little Things debuted in 2006 as one of the eight horror movies in After Dark’s annual festival, “8 Films to Die For”.
This movie, directed by J.S. Cardone, features a couple of actors you might recognize from various other works. The main character, Lori Heuring, while lovely and dedicated to her role, is not one of them.
However, you might recognize the two girls that play her daughters: Scout Taylor-Compton (the babysitter, Laurie, in the Rob Zombie remake of Halloween and Lita Ford in The Runaways) and Chloe Grace Moretz (Hit-Girl from Kick-Ass and Isabella in Hugo). There’s also the very familiar-looking plumber, Geoffrey Lewis, who has a bit part in what seems to be almost everything EVER and looks almost like an older, haggard William H. Macy (it’s the eyes). You’ll also see Ben Cross (Sarek (Spock’s dad, hello! Also, extra points for a parenthetical remark within a parenthetical remark!) from the recent Star Trek movie) as the crazy hillbilly.
We’ve got Baby Spice and Ginger Spice, but I can’t figure out who the tall blonde is supposed to be.
So, no one too major, but the movie is definitely pulling its star-weight for being an independent horror flick.
Story line is as follows: In Addytown, Pennsylvania in 1913, the Carlton Coal Mine was in full swing, using little kids for the majority of its labor as little kids are annoying and so people really aren’t that depressed when they get the black lung.
I should probably rephrase that. Little kids are the source of most of the mine labor because they are little (hence the title “little kids”) and can get into areas that have not been fully opened in the mine.
On one lovely day in 1913, little Mary is sent into a tiny tunnel in the mine to plant a couple of sticks of dynamite on a long fuse. Instead of exiting the tunnel after she is done, she crawls off into a side area and collapses. The adult worker supervising her tells the mine owner’s representative that they can’t blow the new area yet because Mary’s still inside, but the representative tells him to anyway.
He listens and, shortly after Mary collapses, the mine itself collapses, killing all inside… which are mostly little kids.
You think this sounds horrifying, right? Little kid and doll movies scare the shit out of me more than any other type of movie because little kids and dolls are goddamn scary. So now we’ve got a pack of angry dead little kids, and that’s almost as good as having a nuclear bomb buried in your backyard.
Enter present day for nuclear bomb-unearthing.
Can only be improved by a mushroom cloud.
After being nearly bankrupted by medical bills trying to keep her husband alive, Karen Tunny (Heuring) is widowed. While going through some of her late husband’s paperwork, she finds the deed to a farmhouse just outside of Addytown and decides that she and her daughters Sarah (Taylor-Compton) and Emma (Moretz) will go live at the farmhouse until they figure out how to get their lives back on track.
After the introductory 1913 mine scene, we open the standard “hey, we’re in a van with all of our stuff stacked on top” scene. Which, of course, is followed by the “let’s stop in town and pick up the local color at a store and see all the missing persons flyers” scene. So that happens.
After their lovely shopping experience, Karen nearly hits a random man (Cross) in the road who, instead of sticking around to yell at her, runs off, leaving a shattered jar of what could be blood on the highway,
Then they get to the farmhouse where no one comments that it’s kinda odd that it looks like the previous occupants fled the place and took absolutely nothing with them. I mean, the Christmas tree is still up, dishes and toys are out.
What is commented on, however, is the fresh-looking blood that decorates their new front door.
Pretty sure the blood clashes with their planned color-scheme.
While turning on the electricity in the basement, Karen discovers a small box full of pictures and newspaper clippings. She looks at one picture of a set of mining children, then finally heads upstairs.
After listening to the eldest daughter, Sarah, groan about the house’s prehistoric state and lack of water, the three finally settle in to bed. Later in the night, the front door swings open, a mining kid walks in with a pickaxe (and my axe!) and embeds said pickaxe into Karen’s stomach (because nobody tosses a dwarf) while she sleeps.
Just kidding! It’s a dream, she’s fine. However, she’s spooked enough that she gets up and checks the front door… which is open. And the blood on it is now wet. AND the man she almost hit in the road is running off into the forest by her house. Normal night.
She goes back to bed. That’s what I’d do. Sleep is important.
The next day, the plumber (Lewis) comes to turn on the water and she begins questioning him about the mining kids in the picture and the newspaper clippings. She learns (sorta) about the mine accident, that there are still various families that are related to the kids that died in the mine floating around the mountains, and that the last surviving Carlton is in the area buying people out in order build a fancy ski resort.
While they are having this conversation, Emma eats breakfast upstairs until she hears laughter coming from outside. Ditching her breakfast, she runs off into the woods and eventually finds the collapsed mine.
Karen notices her daughter’s disappearance and chases after her, eventually finding her at the mine after encountering a chunk of woodland decorated with dead bunnies. Even though she stops Emma from going into the mine, the damage is done– Emma now has a “pretend” friend in the form of Dynamite-Laying Mary. No, that’s not a porn star, that’s the girl from earlier in this article. Re-read it if you don’t remember, I’m not explaining it to you again.
When you combine Christmas and Easter, you get this.
While Karen and Emma are wandering around the woods, elder daughter Sarah drives into town for groceries. While there, she bumps into some local kids who tell her the story of the zombie mining children, which she laughs off.
We flash-foward a couple of hours and Karen and Emma are still wandering around the now-dark woods, totally lost. Eventually they pop out by a janky-looking cabin and go inside (they knock first, because they’re polite people, but no one answered– why are you pressuring me for these details?!).
Once inside, we get the usual “and now the occupant is suddenly behind you!” routine and we are (re-)introduced to Hanks, the man in the road that Karen almost killed the previous day. He is a bit of a crazy hillbilly and is incredibly paranoid about anyone being out in the dark and lets Karen know that he’ll keep painting her door with his blood and that there’s certainly no need to thank him for this service. Yeah.
They decide to leave, and once they get back home they get to hear the story of the zombie mining children from Sarah. Emma also starts talking about her new friend again, asking if she can come over to play. (Spoiler: she does.)
This is a unique take on our current zombie movie. Usually, as you know, there’s a virus, a curse, an Indian burial ground– something that was created by man through scientific or magical means. In this movie, it is simply the rage of the children at the Carlton family that keeps them going.
Could you imagine if that could work for anyone who died in a rage? The amount of PMS-ing zombies would be ridiculous.
Play with this stuffed lion while I get you a Midol.
Anyhow, even though they are dead, they still need to eat, and they only eat at night. Also, it is important to note that they don’t just leap on stuff and kill it– they take their pickaxes and beat whoever or whatever it is into a bloody pulp and then eat the bits like a chunky human-smoothie.
Food doesn’t seem to be fuel for their bodies as much as it is fuel for their rage. Hanks says during the story that they kill, basically, in order to take sacrifice for all the days they don’t have who they truly want– the last Carlton.
Speaking of the last Carlton, we do get to meet him. Out of all the threads that undermine (harharhar) this movie’s potential for excellence, this character is a major one.
First off, he can’t act. I hate saying it, but he’s awful. If he studied up on his villainous tone, he did so by watching old Hanna-Barbera cartoons. I wish I was exaggerating.
secondly, as many great layers of dialogue there are to this movie, undertones that add to it, things that are never explained but don’t really have to be beause it makes the movie a bit more real, the dialogue for Carlton was ridiculous. Was cliche and trite and like a nine year old added it in with crayon in the script’s margin. It was so different from the rest of the movie’s dialogue that I noticed it as soon as he started talking.
Thirdly(!), the character was given no depth. He was a 2-D villain. There was nothing good about him, no personal characteristics, no redeemable quirks. The character was a cardboard cut-out of someone’s idea of a “villain”. He could have been played by a sock-puppet with a handlebar moustache (but no googly-eyes, as googly-eyes would have allowed him more personality than he was allowed).
He was there as a discard character, designed so flat so he could meet his obvious end without emotional issue(and it is obvious– I’m not spoiling anything once you start watching the movie). His evil nature allows Karen to go against her standard morals without too much struggle and allows the viewer to cheer her on because we can’t see her as doing anything bad.
And while I’m complaining, the lack of body language coaching the kids playing the zombies had was noticeable. One or two of them had it down, could move like the little creep-factories they were supposed to be. The rest were just kids in black contacts, white facepaint, and a red milk-moustache.
On the plus side, there were some amazing shots in this movie, shots that took it to an entirely different visual level. Epic, high-budget shots. On the negative side, there were probably ten of them in the whole movie, and since they were such a contrast to the rest of the film, they were quite noticeable as better. Also on the plus side, whoever designed the lighting did some of the most amazing atmospheric work I’ve seen in ages. Truly spectacular to look at– if only it was taken advantage of a little more often.
See? It’s gorgeous. And yellow. Very yellow.
At the end, we have a movie that had a somewhat original idea and mostly good actors with only one truly bad seed. The kids could have been coached better and the movie certainly could have gone several steps past where they settled and into a more gothicly romantic front, but they didn’t do a bad job– it was just average.
As always, it is available on Netflix on Demand. Go forth and view, should that be your desire.